Natasha and I walked on the inclined hill which ran along the Blue Ridge mountains in North Carolina. The air whipped our faces as we got to the stairway that led down to the rocks next to Looking Glass Falls. When we got to the waterfall, we both marveled at the beauty of God’s creation, something that we don’t get to do as much in cities. That, of course, didn’t stop us from pulling out our phones and taking photos for Instagram. But we were taken back by the jagged edges of each rock, and how furiously the water spilled from the top of the mount. Nothing could stop its march. And in that moment, standing there beside my wife in the new year, I felt rest.
Happy New Year
It’s a particularly odd thing to get away for the new year, since it’s a time when people tend to congregate with friends or family.
But for us, it generally always played out the same. We would go to some party hosted by someone I didn’t know, with people I didn’t know. I wouldn’t be quite sure if I could grab something to eat, or if I could get something to drink. So I would try to use ninja-like movements to get them. The whole affair tended to be, well, awkward.
This year, we decided to visit Asheville, a city we’ve never been to. The night of December 31, we went to Thirsty Monk Brewery and Pub, a local place that was minutes away from the bed and breakfast we stayed at, and ate dinner. We were in bed by 11 p.m. There was no disappointment, no pressure.
It was the perfect way for us to begin 2017, which is a year that I am prayerfully expecting much in. By making it restful (and by choosing pockets of time to rest during the year), you can avoid sprinting through the long year. That’s how burnout occurs, and that’s how spiritual, emotional, and physical injuries happen.
The process is very similar to the way a marathon runner trains. I’ll never forget an illustration that I heard from a sermon while we were living in New York. Our pastor was a marathon runner, and spoke about the time he began to train for marathons. His first instinct was to hit the ground running. He wanted to start trying to bust out the miles. Yet, the training guide told him to rest on Monday. He questioned the guide, wondering why he would wait a day to begin training. He said that resting didn’t necessarily mean doing nothing, or stuffing your face with chips until you begin your “real” training the next day. Resting is recovering and repairing for long marathon ahead. It is revitalization.
There is a very theological component to rest. God rested on the seventh day after creating everything in six days. He doesn’t do this because he got winded after creating, and thus, needed to take a breather. He did it out of freedom and because he had finished his work.
He created us as worshippers, and as a result, has built into human beings the capacity to glorify God when we rest in his finished work on our behalf. In Exodus 20:8-11, God’s people were commanded to rest on the Sabbath. The Tanakh and siddur both say that people who rest on the Sabbath are to look back at the creation of the universe and God’s redemption of his people from Egypt, as well as look forward to the new Messianic age. This is helpful for younger Christians to remember when we see the Gary Vaynerchucks of the world who evangelize a theology of work that is less like “grind” and more like the worship or idolization of money, acceptance, or praise. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t work hard. We should. But rest should be part of our daily, weekly, monthly and annual lives.
Science Says So
Indeed, even science, yes, science, said we should rest. In a 2011 study published in Cognition, a peer-reviewed scientific journal specializing in cognitive science, University of Illinois Psychology Professor Alejandro Lleras found no drop in performance for the group that took short breaks in between tasks. It allowed them to stay focused throughout the entire task they were asked to complete.
We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused,” Lleras said in a statement.
This is especially with respect to staying focused during a long year that, more often than not, will have challenges and obstacles.
The year has already started, and I’m sure that there are plenty of you who have given up on your resolutions. Perhaps one way that you can go forward with them is by getting away, going outside, walk around your neighborhood a bit, get a prayer journal. Do something that will break you from your routine, and try to rest from it.